lawmakers

Report: Rep. Gloria Johnson had mini-stroke

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) sits at her desk moved into a hallway in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville on Jan 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) suffered what doctors described as a possible mini stroke over the weekend, according to KnoxTNToday columnist Betty Bean.

Johnson, who is in the process of moving to run for a new House seat after Republicans drew her into the same district as fellow Knoxville Democrat Sam McKenzie, collapsed at a TJ Maxx on Saturday night. Fellow shoppers Michael and Mandy Knott called 911 and informed Johnson’s mother she was being taken to the hospital, Bean reported.

As of the report, Johnson hadn’t yet seen a cardiologist. But she was tentatively diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke. The contributing causes could include campaigning for the newly created District 90 seat during a heat wave and the stress brought on by fundraising and moving to a new neighborhood.

Johnson, who is soon to be 60, is a retired special education teacher and a longtime thorn in the side of Republican leadership in the House.

Read Bean’s full account here.

Lawmakers confirm Campbell appointment to state Supreme Court

A joint convention of the General Assembly on Thursday approved Gov. Bill Lee’s nomination of Sarah K. Campbell to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Here’s a release from the Administrative Office of the Courts:

Sarah Keeton Campbell is officially the newest justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court. Justice Campbell was confirmed today during a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly, the final step in the appointment process, and took the oath of office.  She was nominated by Governor Bill Lee on January 12 after being one of three candidates out of 11 applicants recommended by the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments.

Justice Campbell fills the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Cornelia A. Clark on September 24, 2021. She is Governor Lee’s first Supreme Court appointment and the second justice to navigate the confirmation process that was enacted in 2016 after Tennessee voters approved a ballot initiative in 2014.

“Sarah has created a truly remarkable and unique career focused almost exclusively on appellate work with a strong passion for public service,” Chief Justice Roger A. Page said. “The Court is thrilled to welcome her to the bench as a colleague. She is accomplished and determined, yet humble and personable, and I am sure she will serve the citizens of Tennessee well.” 

Strong Tennessee Values

Justice Campbell was born in LaFollette in Campbell County.  Her extended family still lives in Campbell County and Scott County, where her grandparents made their living working on farms, in factories, and on the railroad. Her father was the first in her family to attend college, and the family moved to Rogersville in Scott County when Justice Campbell was beginning middle school. She graduated from Cherokee High School in Rogersville, where her parents and brother, a local attorney and municipal judge, still reside.

“My parents and grandparents taught me to work hard, live with integrity, and treat everyone with fairness and respect,” Justice Campbell said. “I am proud of my rural East Tennessee roots.  The values I learned there shaped who I am today.”

Justice Campbell attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on a full-tuition merit scholarship and was recognized as a Torchbearer, the university’s highest student honor.  While a student at UT, she was elected president of the Student Government Association; served as chairperson of the Undergraduate Academic Council; and was a founding member of the Baker Scholars Program. She graduated from the College Scholars program with emphases in political science, educational policy, and Spanish.

“I did not have any lawyers in my family, but I was always drawn to public service,” Justice Campbell said. “I developed an interest in the law while at UT and decided to attend law school with the aim of using my legal education to improve my community.”

Justice Campbell was awarded a full-tuition merit scholarship to Duke University School of Law, where she served as managing editor of the Duke Law Journal, was a member of moot court, and participated in the Appellate Litigation Clinic. She graduated magna cum laude and in the top 10 percent of her class. While at Duke, she also earned a master’s degree in Public Policy.

A Focus On Appellate Law

Justice Campbell quickly realized the intense legal research, analysis and writing required when cases are appealed after trial or an initial court decision was her niche.  After graduating from law school, she secured a federal clerkship with Judge William H. Pryor Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. That position was followed by a clerkship with Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. on the Supreme Court of the United States. There are approximately 36 U.S. Supreme Court clerkships each year, and obtaining a clerkship is extremely competitive with candidates with the highest credentials from the most prestigious law schools applying.

“My clerkships were formative experiences. I was fortunate to clerk for two of the finest jurists in the country. Those experiences allowed me to refine and strengthen my research and writing skills and gain an appreciation for the limited yet important role of a judge in our constitutional structure,” Justice Campbell said. “I found it very rewarding to work on the complicated legal issues that came before the appellate courts.  It was then that I developed an interest in becoming a judge.”

After practicing in Washington D.C. at Williams & Connolly, LLP, Justice Campbell felt the time was right to come home to Tennessee. For the past six years, she has worked in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, most recently as the Associate Solicitor General and Special Assistant to the Attorney General. During that time, she has represented her home state in both federal and state appellate courts, handling a wide range of criminal, civil, and constitutional law issues.

“Serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Justice Campbell said. “I thank Governor Lee for putting his trust in me to serve Tennesseans in this capacity, and I also thank the General Assembly for confirming me to the position. I do not take the task before me lightly. The job of a judge is to decide cases fairly and impartially by applying neutral, objective principles.  That is how I will approach each case that comes before me.”

Family & Community Involvement

Justice Campbell met her husband Scott while they were students at the University of Tennessee. The couple currently resides in Nashville and have three children.   Mr. Campbell has dedicated his career to public education, serving both as a teacher and principal.  The family belongs to Christ Presbyterian Church.

Justice Campbell is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, the TBA Leadership Law Alumni Association, the American Law Institute, and the Federalist Society.  She has been an invited speaker to dozens of continuing legal education courses focused on updates and reviews on state and federal appellate law.

A public investiture ceremony will be planned for the spring.

Price tag for Ford megasite deal hits $884M

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at Ford’s announcement it will build an electric vehicle and battery plant at the Memphis Regional Megasite on Sept. 28, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

When lawmakers return into special session next week to take up an incentive package for Ford’s Blue Oval City at the Memphis Regional Megasite, they might be surprised the price tag has now reached $884 million.

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration had already disclosed the $500 million grant it had agreed to provide to Ford and battery maker SK Innovation. But as first unearthed by Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher, the legislation appropriates state funds for three further items.

Here’s the breakdown:

— State grant to Ford Motor Co. or its affiliates: $500 million.

— Road work: $200 million.

— Building, demolition, and related work on site: $138.2 million.

— Construction of Tennessee College of Applied Technology at the site: $40 million.

— Consulting and legal services: $5 million.

— Establishment of a new Megasite Authority of West Tenenssee: $675,000.

Just like any other major investor, Ford and SK Innovation will also qualify for statutory job tax credits worth $4,500 for each new job created. The Haywood County location also qualifies for an enhanced credit of an additional $4,500 for five years. Or the company can choose the “super tax credit,” of between $4,500 and $5,000 per position (depending on wage level) for up to 20 years.

The enhancement and super tax credit can’t be used together, so the Blue Oval City project will have to decide whether to go for the large per-employee credit for a shorter amount of time, or the lesser amount for longer.

The full projected employment level of 5,800 workers times $4,500 is $26 million. At the enhanced level, the total credit would balloon to $52 million against the projects franchise and excise tax obligations.

Lawmakers close to approving $3K bump in office allowance for selves, higher contribution limits

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With just days remaining in the legislative session, state lawmakers are getting close to giving final approval to a bill providing each of them a $3,000 annual bump in their home office allowance.

The bill would also hike legislators’ per diem amounts to reflect the average cost of hotels in Nashville’s busy — and pricey — downtown business district rather than the rate allowed for federal workers ($234 per night this year).

And best of all for lawmakers, they get the money regardless of how much (or little) they actually spend on their home offices or lodging in Nashville. No need to submit receipts. And the home office allowance would be indexed to the consumer price index — the urban version, even though most lawmakers live in rural areas — meaning it will have automatic increases in the future.

House members are currently limited to mileage reimbursement for one round-trip between their home and the Capitol per week. The bill would allow them to put in for as many trips as they choose to take.

The changes are estimated to cost an additional $438,000 per year. The Senate has already approved the changes, and the House is expected to vote on whether to concur early this week.

Meanwhile, a separate bill would double the contribution limits for senate candidates who have long complained that they shouldn’t be held to the same standards as those running for the House because their terms are twice as long and they represent three times as many people. Under the latest version of the bill headed for a final vote in the Senate, the House would also get a boost in the amount candidates for the lower chamber could receive from each PAC from from $8,300 to $12,700, bringing them into line with those running for Senate or governor.

McNally: Lawmakers should resign if arrested

Rep. Glen Casada speaks to fellow Republicans in a caucus meeting on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican who wore a wire for the FBI in the Rocky Top investigation in the 1980s, says state lawmakers who who had their homes and offices searched by federal agents should resign if they are arrested.

“Of course nobody’s been arrested. They’ve just had search warrants,” McNally told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “But, if somebody’s arrested, I think they should resign.”

The lawmakers who had their offices and homes raided on Friday include former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson), and Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill). The FBI is also looking into former top Casada aide Cade Cothren, interim House Chief of Staff Holt Whitt, and two legislative staffers.

So far we’ve heard from the lawyers of Smith and Whitt:

[Smith] intends to cooperate fully with the investigation in all respects. while she would have preferred to do so voluntarily, Robin understands this may not have been possible…. [She] “is not the target of the investigation, and she has not done anything wrong. Please understand that due to the ongoing investigation, Robin will not be providing any further comment.”

— Smith attorney Ben Rose to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Holt Whitt was one of several individuals contacted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding an ongoing investigation. Mr. Whitt is a well-respected legislative aide with an impeccable reputation, and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He is cooperating fully with the investigation. Out of respect for the legal process, Mr. Whitt will have no further public comment regarding this matter.”

— Whitt attorney Ty Howard.

Federal agents descended on Rep. Warner’s home and business in Marshall County with search warrants, the contents of which remain shrouded in mystery by the government. Significantly, Rep. Warner has not been charged with any wrongdoing.”

— Warner’s attorney Peter Strianse

Day 1 of the ‘coronasession’ in pictures

Lawmakers attend a House floor session in Nashville on March 16, 2020. Watching from the gallery are, from left, Reps. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville), Bob Freeman (D-Nashville), and Bill Beck (D-Nashville). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are some images from the first day of what has been dubbed the “coronasession.”

Gov. Bill Lee and aides arrive for a press conference on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Reporters practice social distancing during Gov. Bill Lee’s press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) watches a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic from the House gallery in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) attends a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

From right, Reps. Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville), Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport), and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) attend a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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